Malaysia Vegetarian Food

Simple Malaysian Vegetarian Food

Malaysia Vegetarian Food - Simple Malaysian Vegetarian Food

More edible shoots and stems(part 4) – Wild taro stems

Very often ,we see yam stems or taro stems for sale in the markets but may look very alien to younger generation.This is a very good survival food plant .It is mostly wild and easily planted but can irritate the tongue,mouth and throat if a wrong variety is consumed.One word of caution – Taro/yam should never be eaten raw.

yam stems

Wild taro stems stir-fried with taro,tumeric leaf ,chilli and fermented beancurd.

In Malaysia,we call taro as yam and this is commonly accepted among us but one should not mess up this yam with the real yam which means the Chinese Yam and  the fake Chinese yam featured in my earlier post.The Chinese yam and the fake Chinese yam can be eaten raw.They taste sweet and slimy,great food for raw vegans.

yam stems

yam stems

Wild yam/taro in Sarawak is in the same family  as the regular yam known as Keladi Cina or keladi Dayak with ID as Colocasia Esculenta.Wild yam grows well in wet land.Some are planted by natives.Taro or yam stems are sold in the markets in  green and fleshy forms or ready-cut stems in baskets as shown in the picture above.The skin of the stems have to be peeled carefully before cooking to avoid its fibrous texture.This particular taro variety does not cause prickling sensation in the mouth and throat.To play safe,one can blanch the cut stems before cooking but most of us cook the dish straight away.

Taro/yam plant growing wild in the peat soil area.

Taro/yam plant growing wild in the wet land area in the city.

Special feature of wild yam is a maroon colored dot at the center of their elephant ear shaped leaf and the green stems.Usually we buy the stems from vendors whom we trust otherwise ending up cooking wrong type of yam stems causing prickling sensation in the tongue and throat.This is due to the toxin known as calcium oxalate crystals present in most taro plants except this particular wild variety.

The elephant ear shaped leaf has a red dot at the center.

The elephant ear shaped leaf has a maroon color dot at the center.

Another feature of this taro plant is the absence of a fleshy root or tuber.The purpose of planting this plant is for its edible stems and shoots.Since this wild taro plant thrives very well in the villages so most people do not bother to plant it.In the city,we try to plant them near the ponds or wet land area.

yam stems

Edible wild taro without fleshy roots.

Chinese way of cooking wild taro stems is simple, just stir-fry with yam/taro and fermented beancurd.Most natives would stir-fry with belacan and chilli.Local vegetarian belacan(fermented bean paste) or miso can be used in place of the belacan.

The stem is tasteless but it has the spongy texture of the patola or luffa.Cooking the stems with luffa or taro is the ideal recipe because the stems absorb and retain all the sweetness from luffa or cooked taro and make the dish very tasty.Strips of tumeric leaf can be added to the dish.

yam stem

Wild taro shoots .

This wild taro plant produces shoots too.Shoots taste sweet but lack of the spongy texture of the fleshy stems.The  procedure of preparing the shoots for cooking is the same as for  the stems,i.e peel the skin first and then cut into bite sizes.Cooking the shoots and stems share the same recipe.

yam stems

Taro/yam plant with purple stems .

The picture above shows another variety of  taro plant with a maroon dot at the centre of the leaves with  purple stems.The stems of this variety  are not edible.However,it has big tubers that are edible.


Emparuk shoots

The picture above shows another survival food plant called emparuk(Malay)/Paru(Bidayuh).Its scientific name is monochoria vaginalis.It is known as water hyacinth.It is an aquatic plant growing wild in wet padi fields,ponds and drains.Many of you gardeners must have notice its pretty purple flowers.The leaves are blanched and cook like kangkong,the water spinach.Its leaves have  high content of potassium and iron.It looks a bit like taro plant so please check on the flowers before consuming.Images of its flowers are not ready for display here.

Great food for survival,

Treasure them before they disappear ;

A lot of things to learn from our natives,

Let’s find more edibles from the wild.


Strange nuts from our rainforest (part 1) – Buah merenti/kop

There are some strange but very delicious nuts from our rainforest here.One such nut is Kacang Kop(Bidayuh) or Merenti (Iban).In Hakka it is called wild groundnut(山地豆) which is a bit misleading because it does not really taste like one but more like kernel of our wild olive,dabai.Its ID is Ostodes pauciflora Merr.

Kop/merenti/buah brati/buah buantik/broti


Strange nuts of Borneo-So wild,so crunchy and so perfectly delicious are those  nuts of Borneo jungles that make us wonder wether they are endemic to Borneo.Of course they are not but are found in abundance in this part of the world.The top one in the collage is buah Brati(Bidayu),Buah buantik(Kalimantan),buah merenti(iban).The shell is so hard that a pestle is needed to crack it open and the kernels inside the nut taste like dabai kernels.The nuts have to be boiled for a few hours with salt.Most vendors in the markets sell boiled nuts.

Fresh fruits of buah mrenti collected from  the trees.

The outer light green shell of each seed can be easily open to reveal a round,black seed with another hard shell and a  white kernel inside which has a nutty flavour.After boiling the seeds for about two or more hours with salt,the kernel can be taken out by pounding the black shell with a wooden pestle.It sounds troublesome,isn’t it ? Wait till one has tasted the nutty and tasty kernels inside the seeds,one will never complain of all the hard work done.


Mertenti fruits always appear in pairs.

The fruits have outer skin or shells that look exotic in shape.From far they look like ping pong balls hanging on the trees.Their fruit size is about the size of a ping pong ball.


Bunches of Merenti fruits.

Merenti fruits always appear in pairs and they look like pale yellow ping pong balls hanging on the trees.The shell turns greyish in colour when the fruits mature.Fruits have to be harvested at this stage before they drop  to the ground.



The picture above shows buah empit aka buah pelajau,praju,peladjau or empelanjau.These are medium sized trees growing along river banks.Very often our natives collect the floating nuts from the upper streams.The spongy, fibrous husk are then separated from the edible cotyledons.Natives around Kuching area like to stir-fry tempoyak and add empit to the dish while local chinese cook the nuts in soup with meat.It tastes like almond if eaten fresh.As for vegetarian,just boil the nuts for 30 minutes and add rock sugar and soya bean milk.The soup is fragrant and the nuts are super soft.This is a very good nuts for export.Empit is quite commonly sold in markets during end of the year.Its ID is Pentaspadon motleyi Hook.f.



The brown one at the bottom left is buah perah(malay),buah kelampai(iban),buah rampeh(bidayuh).Buah kelampai has to be boiled a few times before serving.It tastes more like rubber seeds.Fermented kelampai nuts are popular in indonesia and it is then made into a kind of paste for cooking,something like buah keluak.To cut short the cooking time,it is best to lightly crush the shell and then proceed with the boiling. Its ID is elateriospermum tapos.


Keranji - Velvet tamarind

Keranji madu- Velvet tamarind

The picture above shows keranji with common names as Velvet tamarind or tamarind plum.Actually   keranji  is not a nut.It looks like mini bird eggs with a black egg-like shell and a plum-like fruit with thin flesh and a hard pit inside.It is very similar to tamarind in taste which is sweet and sour .Basically there are three types of keranji -Keranji tanjan,keranji madu and keranji papan.Keranji is the smallest of length 1.5cm and width 1.2cm.It has sweet and black caramel-like flesh which can be eaten by sucking.The other two keranji has orange flesh.The fruit which is a good survival food in the jungle can be soaked in water to make sour,sweet drink.Keranji fruits can be kept in a tin for a few months by drying the fruits with shell on for a week in the sun.Its ID is Dialium indum L.

Bawang Hutan

Bawang Hutan/Buah Kulim/Garlic nuts

Bawang Hutan(Malay) or Sindu(Iban) was use as garlic in the olden days.The whole tree which means its trunk,flowers,leaves and fruits all smell like garlic.Its heavy and hard trunk is a first-class timber with its garlic odor.The leaves and nuts are used for flavoring food.Never eat this nut raw.It has to be cooked to be edible.For Malays,the nuts are used as herbal cure for high blood pressure.There are websites selling this herbal product.Usually natives cook soup with the nuts.Its ID is Scorodocarpus borneensis Becc.

Please like our facebook page,Malaysia vegetarian food for better interaction and further information.Some of the nuts and other wild vegetables may not shown here in the blog.




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Giant pandan leaf and vegetarian zhang in Sarawak

Most people use bamboo leaves for wrapping Ba zhang/zong zi,the savory glutinous rice dumpling for Ba zhang festival.In Sarawak and Kalimantan,we use Giant pandan leaf for wrapping Ba zhang and the bamboo leaf for Kee zhang,the zhang cooked with a bit of alkaline solution.This Giant pandan tree grows up a height of 2-3 meter.It belongs to the same family of the regular pandan plant/screw pine we use in cooking Malaysian dishes i.e the family of pandanus.However,exact ID of this Giant pandan plant is still unclear.
Giant pandan leaves

Giant pandan leaves

 Its leaves are fragrant.Small spikes grow along both sides of young leaves but they disappear after the leaves mature.Just leave a leaf in the car to enjoy its fragrance.Giant pandan leaf can be soaked in warm water before use.Dip it dry before wrapping the zhang.Some of our zhang makers prefer to roll it straight with a wooden roller.


Steamed vegetarian zhang from my kitchen.

 The picture above shows the steamed vegetarian Ba zhang from my kitchen.I am following the Taiwanese way of cooking Ba zhang.I prefer to steam it because it is less time consuming and less oily too.Usual way of cooking Ba zhang is boiling them for 5-7 hours.Of course,time can be cut short by using pressure cooker but for zhang makers,there is no way to install a big pressure cooker in their kitchens.In the past,most people used biscuit tins because they were big enough to contain all the zhangs.

In my recipe to be shared later,I mix the ingredients together with the rice but in most ba zhangs in the markets one can find the filling is placed at the middle of the rice.Mixing the filling together with the rice is to cut short the preparation time.So whatever way will do,just be flexible.



Left – Vegetarian nyonya zhangs are sold at the vegetarian cafe almost everyday.Right – Kee zhangs/碱水粽 with red bean paste and the other one is plain.The plain zhang is dipped in gula apong or brown sugar syrup.

 The picture below shows the regular pandan plant/screw pine we use in Malaysian dessert like kueh and for cooking fragrant rice like nasi lemak,nasi brayani and numerous dishes.Its leaf is fragrant and is an important ingredient in Malaysian Malay and Nyonya dishes.Pandan leaf tea is a popular health drink in the country.

The other pandan leaf shown on the left is pandan serani which is of different family from the regular pandan plant .Its leaf is not fragrant.It is mostly used for green food dye.In Malaysia and Indonesia,pandan serani is used for cooking Kueh Hijau,green cakes and green rice.



Left – Regular pandan plant.  Right – Pandan serani

The picture below shows menkuang plant found in swampy land.It is of same family with the pandan plant but the leaf is not fragrant and is spiky on both sides.Its leaves are for weaving mats and baskets.Giant pandan plants can be found on Pulau Ubin near Singapore  but less common in the Peninsula Malaysia whereas mengkuang trees are quite commonly found in some states of West Malaysia.


Menkuang plant



Vegetarian Ba zhang

  • 3 cups glutinous rice (soaked overnight)
  • 200 g chai poh(optional) – shredded
  • 50 g mushroom – soaked overnight and chopped finely
  •  2 dry chilies -minced
  • 300 g groundnuts- sorted and washed,soaked overnight,then boiled  for 30 minutes.
  • 1/2 tsp 5 spices powder(optional)
  • 2 tbs thick soya sauce
  • 1 tsp light soya sauce
  • 12 giant pandan leaves – cut into 40 cm length and soaked in warm water.Dip dry for later use.
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves(optional) – chopped
  1. Fry the chilies,chai poh and mushroom together.
  2. Add rice and groundnuts followed by all the seasoning.
  3. Scoop all the mixture into a tray.Add 1 1/2 cups of water,some small pandan leaves and steam for 30 minutes.
  4. Wrap with 1 – 2 pieces of pandan leaves as shown in the picture below.Tie with a piece of thread or string.
  5. Steam for another 1 hour.

Left- Bundles of Giant pandan leaves for sale in the market. Right – Wrap the zhang with 1-2 pandan leaves by filling  the rice in the cone formed by overlapping the leaves and covering the top by folding the leaves.Tie with a piece of thread.

Picture below shows how it looks before steaming for another 1 hour.Picture on the left shows giant pandan leaves used for wrapping panggang.Glutinous rice,after soaking for one night, is steamed for 1/2- 1 hour with coconut milk and a bit of salt.Place the steamed rice on a pandan leaf,fold over,secure the open end with a tooth- pick and pan-fry on a iron skillet on low fire.Most panggang sold in markets are wrapped in banana leaves.This pandan panggang is full of pandan fragrance.Try this at home and you will thank me for that.


Left – Uncooked zhang. Right – Panggang folded in giant pandan leaf

Some local people like to cook Ba zhang in ketupat case.Never seen one does not mean it does not exist.It is happening in Sarawak – people cooking Ba zhang in ketupat case,mostly not for sale.

Yes,Giant Pandan in Sarawak.For it to grow well,swampy or wet land is the key.That is why mine is not growing well.




So gardeners,

let’s plant giant pandan leaves.

Bundles of pandan leaves are selling well in our city.













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Tubers and root vegetables of Malaysia (part 2) – the ever popular sengkuang

Malaysian food cannot go without it.Guess what root vegetable is the most popular among us and our neighbours- yam bean/sweet turnip is the most versatile root vegetable in Malaysia.Its ID is Pachyrhizus Erosus.In English it is called sweet turnip,Chinese turnip,Mexican turnip,Jicama(pronounced hee-cama) or just yam bean.It is known as ubi sengkuang in Malay.In Chinese it is called Sha ge(沙葛) or Dou shu (豆薯) whereas local Chinese call it mangkuang (芒光).



According to Wikipedia and other sources from the net,yam bean is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary or soluble fiber.It is composed of 86-90% water and contains only trace amount of protein and lipids.Its sweet flavor comes from the soluble fiber composed of oligofructose inulin which is a prebiotic,meaning it is a food for the good bacteria in the intestines.It is high in vitamin C,A and some Bs.It is high in potassium content.Because of its very low glycemic index,it is a great food for diabetics and its low calory content makes it a ideal food for weight loss.By the way,GI measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar.

Tofu pockets

Tofu pockets

It is part of the legume family and grows on vines.This little-known tuber in the West is a very popular root vegetable in South East Asia,especially among the Malaysian,Thais,Indonesian and Vietnamese.Most often it is eaten raw but it can be juiced and used in stir-fried dishes.

Sengkuang tastes great when eaten raw.It is juicy,sweet and crunchy.It tastes great in stir-fry dishes too.I fry Mee hoon with shredded sengkuang.It is used in steamed sengkuang kueh.It is used as an ingredient for filling of popiah,Vietnamese rice paper rolls,Hakka choi ban/菜粄(steamed rice dumplings) and ban pi/粄皮(steamed rice flour sheets).Sengkuang is needed in both Malaysian and Indian rojak.It can be included in salsa and Western salad.

In the picture above,it is used as filling of tofu pockets together with shredded carrots or half-ripe papaya,cucumber and sengkuang.Sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds on the sauce and filling.Serve the pockets with sweet and sour chili sauce.

Prepare your own Tofu pockets by cutting fried tofu diagonally and then cut a slit at the center.Dig out some tofu(to be mixed with the filling) using a small spoon to enable easier stuffing of tofu pockets.

Sengkuang filling in Popiah

Sengkuang and carrot filling in Popiah

I had fond memories of these stuffed tofu way back in the Seventies when I studied in KL.I frequented a Malay stall in section 14 food center where a young man sold rojak and stuffed tofu.I always requested for more chili source so often that he asked me whether  I drank or ate the source.

The same recipe can be used in popiah/spring roll filling.However,for popiah filling you have to squeeze out some juice from the vegetable.A moist but not dry filling is ideal for the dish.Failing to do so will result in a soggy and messy popiah.No seasoning is needed for the filling so the chili sauce provides the only flavor for the whole dish.Note that filling for this popiah is raw so it can be used as filling for Vietnamese rice paper rolls.



 In the picture above,sengkuang is served with gado-gado sauce.This is a very popular dish well-loved by the Malaysians and Indonesians.


Gado-gado(Indonesian Salad,Sarawakian style)


To prepare the gado-gado source

  • 1/2 cup gula apong (or gula melaka)
  • 1 tbs thick soya source
  • 1/2 cup roasted groundnuts ( ground)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or 1 tbs chili paste
  • 6 limes – juice extracted
  • 1 tsp assam paste (optional)
Serve the following food items with the source:
  • 1 sengkuang – peeled and washed.Cut into thin wedges.
  • 2 tofu or tempe – pan-fried,lightly browned and cut into bite sizes.
  • 2 winged bean – eaten raw if they are home-grown
  • 1 cucumber – cut into wedges
  • 2 buah kedondong
  1. Soften the gula apong over hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. Measure 1/2 cup of soften gula apong
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Dipping sauce for the cut vegetables and tofu is now ready !

                Must try this dish.It is simple and delicious !

Choi pang

Sengkuang  is an ingredient used as filling for Hakka Choi ban/菜粄

 The picture above shows vegetable dumpling called “Choi ban” in Hakka.It is not easy to make this dish.Need a lot of practice so recipe of this dessert will not be included here.The point I want to highlight here is its filling which is made up of sengkuang and carrots stir-fried with slices of mushroom.

Sengkuang as filling of pang pi

Sengkuang as filling of Ban pi (粄皮)

Same filling is used in steamed rice sheets.This rice sheet can be bought from local vendor or straight from the  mee factories.It can be in triangular or popiah shape.

Left - Gula apong Right - Gula Melaka

Left – Gula apong
Right – Gula Melaka

The picture shows the two types of palm sugar used frequently in Malaysian cooking.Join our facebook page to find out whether sourcing of these two types of sugar are possible.


Enjoy our local vegetable and dishes,

the ever popular sengkuang,popiah ,rojak and gado-gado !












Tubers and root vegetables of Malaysia (part 1) – the fake Chinese yam

Talking about tubers and root vegetabes,most people are familiar with taro and sweet potatoes but most people are not aware of the existence of some less common tubers like ubi badak/ubi jawa/ubi besar(Malay) or Obis(Bidayuh).Its ID is Diocorea Alata Linn.It is known as Greater yam,water yam or winged yam in English.In Hakka it is called Tai Shu(大薯),simply means big potato but in Mandarin is called Mao shu/Shu yi(薯蓣) or fake shan yao/fake Chinese yam(伪山药).

Ubi Badak

Ubi Badak

There are two types of Ubi badak , ubi badak putih and ubi badak ungu.The picture above shows the yam which is bright lavender in color.Due to its attractive lavender color,Malay folks in Kelantan state like to make purple kueh like Koleh ubi badak,belebat ubi badak or purple cake out of this variety.Personally I prefer to make purple ondeh-ondeh ( glutinious rice balls,nyonya style) from this yam.

My late mom cooked soup with it.She would just scoop the flesh out with a spoon and added it to a pot of boiling water.Other ingredients include anchovies, pepper powder,salt and Chinese celery.For vegetarian version,just add mushroom powder to the ubi badak soup or porridge.Ubi badak cooks faster than taro so it is good choice for soup.This is one of the food that reminds me of my late mom’s cooking, so simple and yet so delicious.Yes,definitely no other food could beat food of love.

The white ubi badak

The white ubi badak

As for the white ubi badak,our old folks would just roast them on burning charcoal.It has thick skin like the tapioca but its flesh is much softer and without hard fibre.I prefer to eat it raw,like the way we eat sengkuang, the yam bean or sweet turnip(pachyrhizus erosus).Ubi badak has a texture like sengkuang but it is slimy.Both white and purple ubi badak can be eaten raw.

Kerabu Ubi Badak Putih

Kerabu Ubi Badak Putih with pineapple,wolfberries(goji) and lime juice.

The picture above shows ubi badak putih in kerabu(malaysian salad). Pineapple was added instead of mango .The red dry fruits are wolfberries or goji(Lysium chinense) which can be replaced by raisin.

Or if you like,you can just steam it with the skin and peel off the skin after it is cooked.Ubi badak is not like other type of yam and taro which must be cooked before consumed.Most yam and taro contain plant toxins like dioscorin,diosgenin and tri-terpenes that cause itchiness on tongues when eaten raw.We have been eating this type of yam for decades,never once get itchy tongues.



Kerabu ubi badak with nuts and lime juice.

We Malaysians call taro as yam but botanically they are two different plants. Yam is a tuber from a climber and  taro is  a root vegetable which is a perennial plant with big leaves.Ubi badak is a woody climber with pointed heart shaped leaves and square stems,thus the name winged yam.It propagates by its aerial tubers or a cut segment of the tuber.

It resembles in a lot of ways like the Chinese yam which has ID as Dioscorea polystachya or Dioscorea opposita.In fact,in some part of China,it is called fake Chinese yam(wei shan yao).Both have white and purple varieties and taste slimy.The only difference is in the appearance.Ubi badak can be massive if it is harvested at maturity.If left to grow in loose soil,it will have a long tuber shape but irregular shape shown if left to grow in harder soil.



Segmants of Chinese yam (山药)

For its nutritional values,please check it out from a site called ’1 drop1 dream’.

According to ayurvedic medicine,it is a cure for whip spider poison.

According to Chinese medicine,it acts as a remedy for piles and is applied externally to sores.

As an herbal treatment, Chinese yam in its dried form(wai shan-淮山) is used to target the stomach and spleen. It also thought to act on the lung and kidney. It is used widely in Chinese herbal soup and is beneficial to asthma,dry cough,chronic diarrhea and diabetics.

Since they are very similar,ubi badak must have similar health benefits as the Chinese yam.Yam is a good source of complex carbohydrates and soluble dieting fibre. It also help to reduce constipation,decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol level and get rid of toxic matters from intestine wall.This is especially true with ubi badak and Chinese yam which are both sticky and contain a lot of soluble fibre.

There is another type of yam called air potato(dioscorea bubifera linn) which grows wild in the rainforest of Borneo.I was told by some ex-guerillas that they survived in the jungle by eating these air potatoes.Air potatoes have to be boiled to be edible.Most of the varieties of air potatoes are toxic but after boiling  are edible and taste like potatoes.It is actually a Chinese herb used for treating cancer.It is known as Huang tu or huang yao zi(黄药子) in Chinese.










What about ‘Durian cempedak’ ? Have you seen one ?

 Artocarpus is a genus of trees found in South-eastern Asia and in the Pacific.
The fruits in the genus of Artocarpus are terap,tempunik,pingan,bintawak,cempedak,pedadai,nangka and kemangsi.Since we have written a post on the terap and its related fruits like bintawak and pingan,we will focus on campedak and other fruits belonged to the genus of artocarpus and in the same family of Moraceae to which all the figs and jackfruits belong.

One of this fruits is Artocarpus camansi Blanco which is also known as buah pulur(Iban),kamansi (Malay) and breadnut in English.Other names include buah keluih(Malay), Buah Kulru and Kelor(Indonesia).

Is it Breadfruit or Jackfruit ? No,it is neither of these two.At first glance,you may think that is either a jackfruit or breadfruit.Really can’t blame anyone for making that mistake.This is breadnut,ancestor of breadfruit,well known for its edible nuts.It can be described as seedy breadfruit.There are people mistaken them for durians.

Buah Pulur which looks like durian

Buah Pulur which looks like durian.

The breadnut tree looks exactly like breadfruit tree with big leaf of same shape and similar height of about 20m.This fruit is getting very rare nowadays.Most people forget its existence because nobody sells this fruit in the market.Local people cook the young fruit and seeds in curry,just like the way we cook unripe nangka pulp and seeds.The skin is spiky like durian.Cut the young pulp with the seeds into small triangles and boil for 20-25 minutes then cook curry with potatoes.
Cross-section of the buah pulur

Cross-section of the buah pulur

Both breadnut and cempedak seeds contain high level of protein and low calorie.Pulp of mature fruits are discarded and seeds taken out and boil with a bit of salt.They taste like cempedak seeds and chestnuts too.

Buah pulur seeds from ripe fruits.

Buah pulur seeds from ripe fruits.

There is another fruit which looks like a mixture of Buah pulur and campedak.Local people call it Durian Cempedak which has no ID yet.It tastes exactly like cempedak with juicy,sweet and fragrant pulp.

Durian cempedak and cempedak

Durian cempedak(no ID yet) and cempedak (Artocarpus champeden Spreng.)

Look carefully at their skin.Do they look the same ? The one with spiky skin is called Durian cempedak.It looks like buah pulur but with oblong body shape.It is a new variant of cempedak.Where did it come from? Some said it was the research product of some officers at Tarat area,Serian,Sarawak.Most of us are familiar with cempedak but not this Durian cempedak which is obviously a new fruit without an ID yet.

A very good variety of cempedak with soft and less fibrous orange pulp and small seeds.

A very good variety of cempedak with soft and less fibrous orange pulp and small seeds.

Let’s look at another look-alike of buah pulur – breadfruit.Breadfruit is not native to Sarawak.It is called buah Sukun.Most of our venders here in Malaysia sell them as breadfruit fritters together with banana fritters.I prefer to pan-fry them.My late mom used to cook it in sugar syrup and occasionally added coconut milk to the dish.Ripe breadfruit can be eaten raw but be careful of the latex leaking out from the skin.



Another fruit of same genus is the Jackfruit or nangka in Malay.Its ID is Artocarpus Heterophyllus.Nangka should be the biggest fruit found on earth.It can grow up to 20″ long and 12″ across.It is different from cempedak in size and also in its fruit pulp being separated from its seed,unlike the cempedak fruit with pulp sticked to its seed.

Nangka/Jackfruit can easily grow up to 45cm lengthwise and 25 cm across.

Nangka/Jackfruit can easily grow up to 45cm lengthwise and 25 cm across.

Immature nangka fruits and seeds are great for “masak lemak” or curry.Some people,especially old people find nangka fruit a bit tough for them to chew.So before cooking,cut the unripe pulp to smaller pieces.

Pulp and seeds from immature fruit of Nangka.

Pulp and seeds from immature fruit of Nangka.

Ripe nangka fruits are sweet and its pulp do not stick to the seeds.It turns yellow when it is ripe.Malays here would blend the fruits and make cake.Nangka pulp can be cooked in soup together with sweet potatoes.

Nangka pulp is separated from its seed.

Nangka pulp is separated from its seed.

There is another tiny cempedak which is hardly seen nowadays.It is anout 4-5 cm in length,tastes great like its bigger relative.It is called Cempedak hutan/buah pudu with ID Artocarpus Kemando Miq.I used to eat a lot of this fruit during childhood time.Cute-cute cempedak reminds me of my hometown.

Long gone the days when wild fruits were adundant.Where to find them ? We have 24 national parks in Sarawak.May be these are the places to find them in future.

More shoots for ulam to be shared in my upcoming posts.







Edible shoots of Sarawak (part 2) – the leafy shoots

There are quite a number of leafy shoots for sale daily at our local markets.The most popular ones are the pumpkin shoots and cucumber shoots.

Well,these two types of shoots may look alike but they have different taste.Both of these two shoots are quite popular among the natives and the local Chinese here in Sarawak.
Pumpkin shoots stir-fried with pumpkin

Pumpkin shoots stir-fried with pumpkin

Pumpkin shoot goes well with pumpkin or sweet potatoes.Both types of leaves have to be crushed and shredded or even chopped finely before cooking , just like the way we cook changkok manis.

There are two types of pumpkin shoots ; the one plucked from the mature creepers and the other type is the pumpkin seedlings.

Pumpkin shoots plucked from the mature plants

Pumpkin shoots plucked from the mature plants

Pumpkin shoots plucked from the mature plants are tougher and take longer time to cook.

Once a friend of mine tried stir-fry pumpkin shoots for the first time and she forgot to crush the leaves.She jumped to a conclusion – that pumpkin shoots were not edible.So for those who are new to pumpkin shoots,please try the pumpkin seedlings first.They are really delicious.

Both pumpkin and cucumber seedlings can be cooked as vegetables.They usually come with roots.

Both pumpkin and cucumber seedlings can be cooked as vegetables.They usually come with roots.

Pumpkin seedlings leaves are very soft and easily crushed. Pumpkin seedlings are obviously a better choice than the pumpkin shoots plucked from the mature plants.What we do is sow the seeds after pumpkin flesh is cooked.Harvest them before they start to climb or when they are about 30 cm tall.For those who lack bigger space for pumpkin plants to grow,this is a good vegetable for city gardens.They grow easily and do not need fertilizer.

This is a good vegetable for stir-fry,soft and tasty.No other ingredient is needed for pumpkin shoots,just stir-fry the shoots with a bit of salt.The tender leaves can be eaten raw provided they are home-grown.

The pumpkin seedlings

The pumpkin seedlings,easy to grow on good soil.No fertilizer is needed.

The picture below shows cucumber shoots.There are 2 types of cucumber shoots; one is from the regular cucumber plant and the other type is from a local melon-like cucumber called ‘Timun Dayak’.

Local melon-like cucumbers called ' Timun dayak'.

Local melon-like cucumbers called ‘ Timun dayak’.They  turn from light green to yellow,orange to brownish red on ripening.

Both shoots look similar.Those shoots plucked from the regular cucumber plants have leaves that are bigger and they taste less sweet than the local cucumber (Timun Dayak ) shoots.

Cucumber shoots

Cucumber shoots

Cucumber shoot has a very distinct taste of sweetness.Because of this natural sweetness,it is always cooked in soup.In the picture shown here is a bowl of soup cooked with cucumber shoots and sweet corn.Crush the leaves before cooking.

Cucumber shoots soup with fresh sweet corn kernels

Cucumber shoots soup with fresh sweet corn kernels

Other shoots include bitter gourd shoots.Most people would just stir-fry or blanch them and eat in ulam,i.e eat with sambal belacan.Please click here for ulam.

According to Dr Paul Chai in his book – Medicinal Plants of Sarawak,a tea prepared from boiling the leaves is good for high blood pressure.

Bitter gouard shoots

Bitter gouard shoots

Another less common one is the letup shoot.Please click here for more information.

Letup shoots

Letup shoots

There are more leafy shoots for ulam and eaten raw to be shared later in my next post.

 Stayed tuned.

TV 3…………,untuk anda……….








Edible shoots of Sarawak (part 1) – Coconut shoots and bamboo shoots

 Sarawakians eat a lot of shoots,just to name a few – wild bamboo shoots,nipah palm shoots,nibong palm shoots,wild sago palm shoots(pantu),bindang palm shoots,palah palm shoots and there are more leafy shoots on the list.Among all these  shoots,coconut shoot  and the bamboo shoot are the most popular and delicious in ‘masak lemah’ style of cooking.


coconut shoot

coconut shoot

 The cross section of the ‘younger’ shoot has pretty pattern on it.The lower part of the shoot is harder therefore is usually discarded.Cut into bite size or cubes as you like and cook curry,Sarawakian style with it. Stir-fry it with thick soya source and chilies like how we fry bamboo shoot.In Chinese it is called ‘Ya Xim’  – 椰心(umbut kelapa).

How to keep it fresh and less brown due to oxidation ? Cut the shoots in bite size and soak in water.Keep in the fridge.It can last for a few days.

coconut shoot

Coconut shoots soaked in water with cherry chilies and sawtooth coriander leaf.

Texture wise,coconut shoots resemble the wild rice stem (zizania latifolia) which is jiaobai (茭白) in Chinese/禾薯(Heshu) in Hakka.In the sixties and seventies,this vegetable could be found in Siburan Village at 17th mile Kuching – Serian Road.Paddy farmers in this village planted them in their paddy field.Coconut shoot tastes great due to its  coconut flavor which is lacking in wild rice stem.Nowadays,wild rice stems are imported from China and sold in supermarkets.

Coconut shoot

Wild rice shoots/wild rice stems (茭白)/Heshu (禾薯) in Hakka

Coconut shoots are either cooked in ‘masak lemah’ style or in local curry.Sarawakian curry is a bit different from the regular type found in the West Malaysia.It is more soupy,unlike the regular curry which has more gravy.It is closer to sayur lodeh(mix vegetable curry) in Indonesia.Vegetarian curry cooked with potatoes and coconut shoot is a very popular dish in Sarawak.

Before cooking , boil the coconut shoots for 20-30 minutes.The water can be retained for cooking.This precooking process is necessary to soften the texture of the shoots.

Coconut shoots cooked in vegetarian curry

Coconut shoots cooked in vegetarian curry

 Another popular and more common shoot is the wild bamboo shoots.The two most popular ones are the Dendrocalamus asper (Giant bamboo),a.k.a Rebung manis in Malay and another type is Gigantochloa levis(Blanco)Merr.,also known as Rebung beting in Malay.

Bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoots of Rebung manis

Bamboo shoots contain cyanide which contributes to its bitter taste so they have to be boiled and the water left is to be discarded.This process will remove the bitterness of the shoots.

Pickled bamboo shoot

Pickled bamboo shoot (pekasam rebung in Malay)

Pickled bamboo shoots are bamboo shoots preserved in brine.They become sour after a few days.This is great for cooking soup with the pickled mustard.Bamboo shoots can be pickled in sugar solution too.The shoots must be boiled before pickled.

Bamboo shoot

Bamboo shoot of Rebung beting

 Wild bamboo are abundant in Sarawak jungles.Nobody cares to plant them in the villages but in the suburban area,there are cultivated bamboo trees originated from China.The lack of  slightly bitter  taste like the local bamboo shoots makes them less popular than the wild bamboo shoots.

Both coconut shoots and bamboo shoots are great food for people on diet.Bamboo shoots contain 1 gm of fiber and 12 calories per 100 gm of serving.

At present we still have a lot of bamboo trees growing wild around our villages but things may change drastically after a few decades.So enjoy our wild bamboo shoots before they disappear.



More exotic fruits from our rainforest(part 2) – langgir,the fruit for shampoo

Langgir is a very special fruit to me.It reminds me of my late mother.I have fond memories of langgir.Though it tastes just plainly sweet without much flavor,langgir holds a very special place in my heart.


Langgir fruits

Ripe langgir fruits

When I was in primary school , I was my mom’s shampoo girl.I helped her to comb her hair with a wooden comb and langgir shampoo.She would pour langgir shampoo on her hair continuously and my job was combing her waist long hair non-stop for almost half an hour.Not very long after my first few services I learned to escape from this combing task halfway by telling her I wanted to read books borrowed from the school library.You see,she knew I read a lot but seldom studied.

“Mom , I got a pile of books to be returned.”I would tell her this as soon as I spotted a passer-by who could replace me.

“Well then, go and get a replacement .” She would tell me so.

Off I went and grabbed any lady passing by our old house and told them my mom needed extra hands.Most of them were Iban mothers who were on their way to the bazaar across river or on their way back to their longhouses which were 1/2- 1 hour walk from our house.They were just too happy to help because they would chat non-stop till the last drop of langgir shampoo gone into drain.All those ‘Induo’(ladies in Iban) were her good friends.

Langgir in the market

Langgir in the market

Langgir in Malay or Langir in Iban,is Xanthophyllum amoenum Chodat in Latin.It has a Hakka name – 青蓝壳 which means greenish blue shell.Its fruit is about 4 cm in diameter.Its immature fruit is green and turns yellowish green when it is ripe.The skin is thin,soft and easily crushed.That is why langgir fruits are never perfectly round.Very often the skin is indented.Each fruit has 4-5 brown large seeds covered with  thin aril.The pulp clings to the seed and is sweet  and lack of flavor.Some people loves its taste especially after keeping in the fridge it tastes sweet and juicy.

What is special about langgir is its skin.Do not throw away its skin after finish eating the fruits.Our natives in the markets do sell langgir skin in strings.


Langgir dry skin

Dry langgir skin

Dried skin of langgir can be crushed and boiled in water to be used as a natural shampoo.It produces bubbles when it is mixed with hot or cool water.It is a good remedy for dandruff.Ibans in Sarawak believe that prolonged use of the langgir shampoo will result in glossy black hair.And indeed it was true in my mom’s case.She had black long hair until she was 60 years old whereas my hair turned grey even before my 50th birthday!

Langgir tree laden with fruits.

Langgir tree laden with fruits.

Besides being used as shampoo,langgir dried skin can be used as detergent too. Boiled langgir skin water  was used by the Iban people for washing clothes.Look at the two pictures shown below.


Soiled tablecloth before soaking in the boiled langgir water.

I did an experiment on a piece of tablecloth.First,I poured oil over it and then soaked it overnight in a bucket of boiled langgir skin water.The bubbles disappeared and the table cloth came out clean of traces of oil.This shows that it can remove oil from soiled cloth.Check table 1 for its nutritional value here.


Clean and dry table cloth after soaking for one night in boiled langgir water.

Ok,let’s have langgir shampoo and detergent in the market.Don’t play play with PCK Pte Ltd.We are going for real,hehehe………


Our rainforest is full of surprises .There are fruits,shampoo,detergent,edible ferns,herbs and what else ? 

Oh,yes,timber, of course and animals plus waterfalls and caves……..Yes,endless resources from the nature ……..





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More exotic fruits from our rainforest ( part 1 ) – Engkalak vs Avocado

Engkala(Litsea garciae) and avocado(Persea americana) belong to the same family of lauraceae.Engkala is also known as the butter fruit.

I spent my childhood in my hometown where wild fruits were plenty and engkala/engkalak was one of the many exotic fruits we ate like snack in between meals.As a vegetarian or vegan, eating fruits for dinner or any other meals everyday is an important step towards daily detoxification.

Those were the days when wild fruits were abundant.They were found growing near small streams and hill slope.Engkala is now mostly grown near the longhouses and in villages.


Engkala bintang is smaller in size and is red in color as compared to Engkala bulan which is pinkish in color.

 There are two varieties of Engkala,one is Engkala susu or Engkala bulan,bigger and pink colored and the other one is mini engkala called engkala bintang.Hakka people call engkala’ Ta hak ‘.In Chinese it is 菜燶子.The smaller variety is called Engkala bintang which is richer in taste than the bigger variety called Engkala bulan.

Texture wise,Engkala tastes like avocado and dabai mixed but lacking the richer flavor of both of these two fruits.Some people may not agree with me but personally,I will eat engkala when there are no dabai  to be found in markets.Most people like Engkala bintang which looks very exotic and its sweet taste and richer flavor than the bigger engkala bulan makes it top on the list of ‘must try fruit’ in Sarawak.


Engkala tree

Engkala tree laden with unripe fruits.

There are three ways of preparing engkala.Remove the cap-like stalks before preparing the fruits.Wash and rinse the fruits carefully.

1)Tap the fruit gently with the back of a spoon and soon the fruit pulp becomes soft and mushy.Squeeze out the seed and eat the pulp with a bit of salt( as written by Yi Chang of Sarawakiana@2).Honestly,this is the first time I learn of this method.The Iban in my hometown area never taught us this way of preparing buah engkala.They even reminded my late mom not to eat the fruit raw.

2)Sprinkle rock salt over the fruits in a pot.Cover the pot and toss the fruits gently so that fruits are mixed evenly with salt.Wait for 20 minutes.By then the fruits would become soft.The pulp is then creamy and tasty.

3)Soak the fruits in warm water for 5-10 minutes.Throw away the water and sprinkle some rock salt on the fruit.Toss and eat right away.So far this is the most popular way of relishing the fruits.Most Chinese and Bidayuh people would prefer this way of preparing engkala.I was told not to eat this fruit raw for unknown reason.



Engkala bintang bought from the market.

A lot of locals,Chinese and natives alike,love engkala .I prefer avocado to engkala.Avocado has richer flavor and the pulp is fine and smooth.

The picture below shows some local avocados which I believe has an origin from Bandung,Java but are widely cultivated in Kalimantan.It is not as creamy as the imported one but for making cheese and avocado spread for bread is just as good as the Australian avocados.

Avocado is an important food for vegetarians and vegans likewise.

Locally grown avocados bought from the market.

Locally grown avocados bought from the market.

These local avocados from the Bidayuh villages have watery flesh and do not have a rich flavor like the imported ones.Most of them weigh around 300 -400 g.

Recipes of avocados as bread spread are plenty in the net.

You just have to slice it,mash it and blend with cheese or mashed potatoes.

I hope more cafes in Kuching will make full use of our local avocados.Mashed avocados can be used as raw topping on pizza together with capsicum and sweet corn kernels.For nutritional content of Engkala,please click table 1.

Chinese new year is just a few days away.I hope I can find more long lost exotic fruits.One of them is buah engkilili/angkali.Now,where have they gone to? There are four of them on my list of ‘must find’.Just a decade ago,I have no problem finding them at the well-known Satok Market.Where have they gone to ? Sigh……..




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